I believe we all have our favorites when it comes to authors whose pieces we search for. You know, the ones that nudge us to re-Consider our current thinking on a topic or – occasionally – introduce us to a topic we’ve not really Considered before. If you look through the archives of this blog, you’ll quickly identify quite a few of my favorites. These days, with all of the flexibility of access due to social media, these writings are easily gathered. [Aside: I feel compelled to caution that ‘favorites’ should never become unquestioned sources. Rather they must always be simply one of many sources, all Considered carefully and deliberately as we develop our beliefs and positions.]
This blog post grew out of a post from Seth Godin. It’s titled “Tension vs. Fear.” Quoting from the piece: “Fear’s a dream killer. It puts people into suspended animation, holding their breath, paralyzed and unable to move forward. Fear is present in many education settings, because fear’s a cheap way to ensure compliance. ‘ Do this,’ the teacher threatens, ‘or something bad is going to happen to you.'” And: “Tension is the hallmark of a great educational experience. The tension of not quite knowing where we are in the process, not being sure of the curriculum, not having a guarantee that it’s about to happen.”
Yes, this particular post led me to Consider my thinking and beliefs on both education and personal success. For me, by the way, education (Effective Learning, really) is a critical contributor to personal success. While this particular Consideration is far from reaching resolution, I nevertheless wanted to share my thinking to date. For me, fear is indeed all too often the source of blandness and status quo. “I / we can avoid failure if I / we simply keep doing what I / we have always done. Think of the negative impact on me / us if I / we fail. And you know how common failure is. I / we will be seen as worthless or useless, despised by colleagues and many friends.”
My response to those gripped and controlled by fear: Get over it! Success – in any way one defines it – depends upon our being curious and then creative in addressing that curiosity. Creativity in turn most certainly includes the risk, the probability, of failure during our efforts. But this should not be feared; these failures (love the acronym, FAIL: First Attempt In Learning) must be seen as routine, as opportunities to reflect and refine our efforts. Opportunities that are helpful and valuable to our efforts leading to success.
But here’s where I have some problems with Seth Godin. Does this mean the fear must be replaced by tension? Yes, I know he sees tension as a good thing… Yes, I presume that he thus doesn’t see it impacting our well being negatively. But I’m of the strong belief that success can occur without significant tension. Of course, we must expect tension to exist at various times during the creative addressing of important situations. But visualizing efforts to address important situations as including routine / constant tension, I believe, is a negative approach – probably leading to fear most of the time.
Again, quoting Godin: “Effective teachers have the courage to create tension. And adult learners on their way to levelling up actively seek out this tension, because it works. It pushes us over the chasm to the other side.” Create tension, seek out this tension… Again, I ask why? A betterapproach, I believe: Teachers must facilitate development of four skills: Effective Learning, problem solving, communicating, and working in groups. Developing these skills is accomplished via student efforts on addressing meaningful defining questions generated to align with appropriate standards. Will this be hard work for students and teachers? Yes, of course! Should it ‘create tension?’ Of course not!
The importance of this effort (What percentage of teachers think this is their main responsibility in the classroom? Probably quite low, agreed???) lies in developing these skills into habitual skills, in a non-pressure environment. The post-secondary college or employment then has been prepared for; the lifelong learning absolutely required for a successful career and personal life has then been prepared for. Yes, there will be short periods of tension dealing from time to time with situations that arise in the course of addressing meaningful situations. But there will be no creating tension, no seeking tension!
So, good tension??? I continue to believe any tension can be minimized and dealt with when it occurs. I don’t think that’s the tension Seth Godin was talking about – his good tension… Maybe minimal natural tension that’s addressed; maybe that’s “good” tension!